A team of students from Missouri University of Science and Technology will demonstrate the fundamentals of remote robotic travel and task completion as part of a competition that challenges students to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers.
The University Rover Challenge, sponsored by the Mars Society, will take place May 28-30 at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. The Utah desert is used because it most accurately resembles the rocky terrain of Mars.
Missouri S&T’s Mars Rover Design Team will compete against 22 other registered teams from around the world. Countries represented include India, Egypt, Poland, Canada and Bangladesh, in addition to teams from the United States.
Prior to the start of the competition, the students were required to submit a video presentation that explained the design and cost of their rover. Students must also submit a detailed final expense report.
In Utah, the team will compete in four active rover events.
The astronaut assistance task requires teams to use the rover to collect lost tools left in the field and deliver them to multiple locations throughout the field.
The equipment servicing task requires the rover to repair a mock equipment system. Tasks could include turning valves, pushing buttons and reading pressure gauges.
In the sample return task, the rover must take soil samples at selected sites in the field and use onboard instrumentation to perform a basic scientific evaluation to determine geological significance or determine the likelihood of biological life.
In the terrain traversing task, rovers will be required to maneuver through a variety of difficult terrains to test ruggedness and ability to find the route through soft sand, rough stones, rock and boulder fields, vertical drops, and steep slopes.
Missouri S&T’s Mars Rover, named Horizon, is a student-designed and -built rover. The team developed custom circuitry for the rover, machined the aluminum and carbon-fiber support structure, created carbon-fiber wheels, had the frame cut using water-jet technology at Missouri S&T’s Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center, and 3-D printed the gears and drill bits used in the rover’s arm.
This is the third year Missouri S&T’s Mars Rover Design Team is competing at the challenge. Last year, the team finished in second place at the competition and was the highest-scoring team from the United States.
Later this fall, the team will compete in the European Rover Challenge in Podzamcze, Poland. The team successfully raised $20,000 through a crowdfunding project to cover travel expenses. Its crowdfunding effort was funded 128 percent by donors who visited crowdfunding.mst.edu.
Sarah Ward, a senior in civil engineering from Ballwin, Missouri, is the Mars Rover Design Team leader. The team’s advisor is Dr. Melanie Mormile, professor of biological sciences at Missouri S&T. For more information about the competition, visit urc.marssociety.org.